Invisible Ink

I’m writing this on my birthday, the day before it’s due to be posted. I’m 39. My dad said, last night, “They start to go quicker, don’t they?”

I responded, “Actually, this year’s been pretty eventful. I think that’s made it seem longer.”

But I’ve been at the age, for over twenty years now, that my birthday isn’t such a big deal. I’m enjoying this one, though. Beth made some fried halloumi for breakfast. I put some yoghurt in a couple of small bowls and made some tea.  Even though it’s the ides of September, I can see a patch of blue in the sky, if I crane my neck.

For all that, I may be looking forward to Strokiversary more. I haven’t celebrated one of those before. Well, maybe one, but it was rubbish.

British humo(u)r, courtesy of

More on that next week, but today, the start of three posts leading up to the big day….

After I wrote last week’s post, Mrs. Stroke Bloke and I were getting ready for bed, and I felt compelled to write her a very short poem. I’m not inclined to reproduce it here (even with a nakedly confessional blog, it’s nice to have some things that are just ours), but the driving metaphor was invisible ink. It was intended to work on two levels, but I’ll just tell you the first.

Mrs. Stroke Bloke and the eye
that brought me back.

Here it is: works on two levels. Well, more than that. But for this purpose, the first is cumulatively to say “Hi!” to you, Dear Reader, bring you up to date, and maybe give you a laugh and something to think about. But secondly, every post is a love letter to Beth. Oft times, that won’t be obvious. Asthma attacks and Vini Reilly’s stroke aren’t the most obvious topics for such a dispatch. But Beth knows about this, and can read the message. Even though it’s written in invisible ink.

The draft of today’s post.

As I celebrate the last birthday of my thirties — still a little broken, but content — and gear up for Strokiversary, it seems like a good time to acknowledge the fact of the invisible ink that permeates each post. I mean, I’d like to shout the message from the rooftops, but I don’t think my doctor would sign off on the climbing and balance issues. This will have to do.

You may have noticed, as becomes more eclectic ( I’ve been thinking about what makes a good post for this audience. It often seems to be the more aslant posts that garner the most comments. Whereas the more love-y ones tend to scare off the apoplecterati. Is that strange? Sales figures would suggest that The Durutti Column aren’t “universal”. But love is, isn’t it? I’d imagine that, here in the first world, we all aspire to love and be loved. Either we’re in love, and think it’s the coolest thing, or love is absent from our lives, and we wish it wasn’t.

Certainly, there seems to be an insatiable appetite for the study of the anatomy of love. Anatomology? Have a look through your record collection. Even Billy Bragg’s best songs aren’t about politics.

And surely part of the reason for the success of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity was that, even though it was a fiction, the sentiment seemed real. It seemed like we were getting an insight into the workings of the mind of a reflective and occasionally thoughtful narrator (particularly when it came to the vagaries of love — and mixtapes). All the more so, because his thoughts often revealed him to be flawed. Perhaps the most striking review of the book (I’ve forgotten the exact words) was along the following lines:

“Buy this book for your girlfriend, so she can see how your mind works. Actually, don’t. It’s not going to reflect well on you.”

High Fidel, innit.
High Fidel, innit.

Alison MacLeod recently wrote in The Grauniad about Intimacy, Hanif Kureishi’s lightly fictionalised novella recounting the circumstances of the affair that led to him leaving his partner. Although his voice is far removed from Hornby’s, Intimacy similarly bears the stamp of truth because the narrator is willing to divulge the thoughts that reflect badly upon him. MacLeod recounts, “I didn’t read it when it first came out, because I was sure it would leave a very bad taste in my mouth.” That said, she states in the next sentence that she did lay her hands upon a copy and read it.


I suspect, because of a very human desire to know how others think. When I was a kid, I held a basic belief that, on some fundamental level, we’re all the same, and think along the same lines. Subsequent experience has debunked this assumption, but this only strengthens the desire to shave the other’s head, peel back the scalp, remove a piece of skull, and look at the brain. (Yep, you’re reading So, I suppose there will still be pieces like this on from time to time. I may not be Nick Hornby, I’m certainly not Hanif Kureishi, and I’m definitely not the Messiah. But I’ve got two holes in my skull. Feel free to have a look inside. In fact, for this week only, I’ve soaked this post in red cabbage water. My computer’s effed, but you can read the secret message. Tell someone you love them today. A partner. A parent. A son. A daughter. A friend. A pet. Love ya!


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14 thoughts on “Invisible Ink

  1. Who’s Pickle? And I did read to the end, and not just look at the pictures. And now I have to go to the interweb and look up the definition of “aslant.” See this blog is good for my brain, and yours.

  2. A wee bit salty, and totally delicious? I’ll let you guess. But do focus on the pictures, and you may find a clue. (Hint — it’s not Castro.) “Aslant” is pretty new to me, too, but I really like it, and will be using it often.

  3. Obligatory pedantic asshole comment: The Ides of September was on the 13th.

    There is something wrong with me that my first thoughts are always these types of comments. Anyways, yay for love! Also, happy birthday.

    1. Et tu, Mat?

      Well, a nickel to you for spotting this week’s deliberate error, Matt. Except….

      As classical scholars will know, the Roman calendar was revised to allocate two days to the Feast of the Stroke Bloke. As a result, September came to have an extra day, was a “long” month, and the ides of September, for the short period after this revision (but prior to its repeal), took place on September 15. You owe me a nickel. QED.

      Also, yay for love:

  4. One of my fondest activities when i was a wee lad (inasmuch as I was ever ‘wee’) was to make fake secret pirate maps. I must have learned it in a blue peter book for bored boys or something. In retrospect it seems a little dangerous, because it involved coffee, matches, and acid. But then again, what good things don’t?

    The technique was as follows.

    1: Take a sheet of paper. I guess back then I was using A4, like a communist. But 8.5×11 also works.

    2: With a match, burn the edges of the sheet of paper, putting them out, so that the entire edge is a burnt mess

    3: Write on the paper a message with acid (lemon juice works well)

    4: Dip the paper in black coffee, fairly weak.

    At this point you have a blank sheet of paper which looks exactly – and I mean exactly – like an old time blank sheet of piratey paper should have looked, but probably didn’t, because I guess pirates would have either had proper maps and paper, or nothing, and I don’t see why they would have maintained such perfectly semi-repaired invisible maps. But I was semi-wee, so it worked.

    Anywhooz, so then you give it to a friend, hold it up to a light (like a good old fashioned 100w incandescent with lots of heat) and your acid message turns black quicker than the paper. Voila. Secret revealed. Pirate fun had.

    And I had, I suppose, not thought of that for about 25 years. But then I read the post. So figured I would leave a comment.

    And, of course, happy birthday.

    1. I noticed that’s your second “communist” dig. Don’t think I’m not counting. And, I love that story. We’ll definitely have to show that to the wee man (when and if there is one) someday.

    2. Thanks, Paul. I did a couple of similar school projects. One, a wanted poster. The other, a map of Treasure Island, as envisioned by my prior incarnation, RLS (see the “About Me” link at the top of the page). Apparently Stevenson came up with the idea while pondering a pond in Queen Street Gardens, here in the city.

      It strikes me that a safer and easier way for a young boy to make one of these pirate maps would be to fall in with a scoundrel like Jim Bones (who suffers a stroke, natch), and someone with a name like… “Livesey”. He could sail with, and be attacked by, a band of enraged pirates, and, hopefully, escape with the map and maybe three or four hundred guineas.

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